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Monday 18 December 2017

Tributes paid to fisherman who loses fight for life after fumes poisoning

The fishing port of Killybegs
The fishing port of Killybegs

Greg Harkin

A fisherman who died when he was overcome by poisonous fumes on board his trawler was "an absolute gentleman", friends have said.

James Joyce (27) from Galway died at Letterkenny General Hospital after an industrial accident on board his uncle's fishing boat in Killybegs, Co Donegal.

The Joyce family, from Inis Mór on the Arran Islands, were said to be devastated by the loss.

It's understood chemicals had been used on board the vessel on Monday morning to clean a holding area for fish.

Mr Joyce had gone below deck and was immediately overcome by fumes.

A 46-year-old Filipino crew mate raised the alarm before going to help but he also lost consciousness.

He is still in a critical but stable condition at Letterkenny hospital and is in an induced coma.

Fire crews wearing specialist breathing equipment had to be called in to take the men out of the Galway-registered trawler Oilean an Oir.

Mr Joyce's death is being mourned amongst the fishing communities of the Arran Islands and Killybegs.

"James was an absolute gentleman who lived for fishing," said a neighbour on Inis Mór.

"His father was a fisherman and it's part of who we all are. We've lost friends at sea before but nothing like this has ever happened.

"That's what makes this so hard to take in. James was just the nicest fella you could meet."

Mr Joyce's father Michael, a retired fisherman, and mother Joan, a retired nurse, were being comforted by friends and relatives.

In Killybegs, local independent councillor Niamh Kennedy who visited the accident scene, said people there are shocked by the death.

"All our thoughts are with the Joyce family in Galway," she said.

"It is such a shocking incident and the people of Killybegs are praying for the family.

"We are also hoping and praying that his colleague makes a full recovery."

The Health and Safety Authority and the Marine Accident Investigation Board are conducting investigations into the incident.

Gardaí are also investigating the death on behalf of the coroner's office.

A response plan was activated by the emergency services when the alarm was raised with gardai, ambulance crews and fire officers racing to the scene.

The Oilean an Oir remained sealed off yesterday as part of the inquiries.

Friends paid tribute to Mr Joyce on social media sites last night.

"You were too young to go my friend. You were the best craic and the best lad around," wrote one friend.

Irish Independent

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